When you think of the strangest coach-player relationships in college football, what pair comes to mind? I know what one comes to mine: LSU head coach Les “Mad Hatter” Miles and former LSU defensive back and current Arizona Cardinal Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu.
During Mathieu’s short two-season career in Baton Rogue, he became one of the most titillating characters in all of college football. He recorded 136 tackles, six sacks, four interceptions, and scored two touchdowns on six fumble recoveries. He also holds the school record for most forced fumbles with eleven.
In addition to those numbers, Mathieu also primarily returned punts for the Tigers as he returned two punts for touchdowns his sophomore year in 2011, including a 92-yard return against Arkansas which is the third longest in school history.
He also became a social media phenom as his yellow mohawk and tenacious attitude led to him earning the nickname “Honey Badger.” Apparently, Mathieu took the phrase “Honey Badger doesn’t give a s—” a little too seriously during his sophomore year.
Mathieu was suspended for the Auburn game that season when he tested positive for synthetic marijuana. Over the next year, Mathieu continued to run into trouble with marijuana, both synthetic and real, that eventually led to Miles dismissing one of the most dynamic players in LSU history from the team.
Following his dismissal, Mathieu remained enrolled at LSU and kept taking classes. He along with three other former Tigers were arrested for marijuana possession. That lit a fire under his butt and he got his act together, taking advice from former LSU and current Cardinals teammate Patrick Peterson.
Mathieu participated in the 2013 NFL Draft Combine and was selected by the Cardinals in the third round of that year’s draft. He has become one of the integral parts of Arizona’s defense and return games, leading to the team going 11-5 in 2014 and making the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
Miles remembers what Mathieu did for the Tigers during his short run with the team and he knows that without the off-field troubles, Mathieu is someone he wants his current defensive backs to emulate. College Spun shared a video of Miles teaching his players to play like Mathieu did during training camp.
There is no doubt that Mathieu’s tenacity and “never say die” attitude is one to live by when it comes to being the very best on the football field. Despite what happened off the field with Mathieu, Miles knows that he will be hard-pressed to find another player like him.
Mathieu will easily go down as one of the best players in NFL history. I just hope that maybe the Tigers can find another “Honey Badger” for all football fans to enjoy.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to LSU Sports